SO FAR TOO GOOD
The Naveen Patnaik government is getting better and better at what it does best
What makes for world-class administration? What is best-practice governance all about?
Some would say it is about encouraging good performance in all spheres, whether it be in public services or sports or anything else that holds value for a state and contributes to the well-being of its people.
Late last month, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared that doctors and allied healthcare professionals working in government-run facilities across the state may expect to be handsomely rewarded if they provide exemplary services under the Mo Sarkar initiative.
TO THEIR HEALTH
Naveen announced cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for 10 doctors and Rs 5 lakh for paramedical personnel to that effect. A medical committee will evaluate and select the winners, after which they shall receive their awards from the hands of the Chief Minister himself at a state-level programme every year.
In addition, those having National Quality Accreditation Standard Certification shall be awarded a month's salary as a bonus in the following fiscal if they excel at providing quality health care facilities.
The Odisha government is also working towards creating a better environment for medical professionals and patients alike for optimal results.
The Chief Minister announced infrastructure development initiatives for four district headquarters hospitals and Rourkela Government Hospital, which will be primarily aimed at plugging the gaps in the already existing facilities.
The most notable step on this front was Naveen’s announcement on November 6 that Rs 1,000 crore has been earmarked for the development of SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack into a state-of-the-art, 3,000-bed integrated hospital.
Stating that the goal was to develop the top medical college of Odisha into one of the top three hospitals in the country, the Chief Minister said: “We should be able to compare ourselves with the best in the country. In fact, our transformational goal should be AIIMS plus," Patnaik said, adding that such a transformation will save the people of Odisha the trouble of going outside the state for medical treatment.
By offering the best quality accommodation and world-class medical and recreational facilities, Naveen assured, his government will work towards creating an ecosystem that will lure in medical professionals from outside to serve there.
"Odisha has set global benchmarks in many fields. Now it's time the world recognises Odisha for its affordable, quality healthcare," the Chief Minister said.
Similarly, in the world of sports, Naveen Patnaik announced a new round of financial incentives – in the form of monthly allowances – to encourage state athletes and inmates of government-run sports hostels to improve their performance. He did so after having detailed discussions with sports hostel students and understanding what did they need to optimise their potential.
The monthly allowance for girl students and boy students at all the sports hostels has been enhanced to Rs 500 and Rs 300, respectively, said a statement from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO).
Those taking part in out-of-station, recognised sports competition organised by national sports federation or similar level, will be given an allowance of Rs 300 per day, the statement said, while those winning gold medal, silver medals and bronze medals at national-level competitions shall get a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000, Rs 500 and Rs 300, respectively, for a year.
And those who set national records will get an additional monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 for one year, provided their records are not broken within a year’s time. What’s more, sportspersons selected for national teams will receive a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 for one year.
As actively as it is encouraging and supporting high performance, the Naveen Patnaik administration is cracking down on performance-hindering elements with equal intensity.
Earlier this month, the Odisha government dismissed six more officials from service and stopped the pension of five others after a vigilance court convicted them on corruption charges.
The six dismissed officials were Works Department assistant engineer Rabindra Kumar Das of Kudumulugumma block in Malkangiri, Panchayati Raj Department junior engineer Buddhiram Suniani of Dhankuda block in Sambalpur district and progress assistant Suresh Chandra Mishra of Papadahandi block in Nabarangpur district, forest range officer Hemant Panda of Angul, Works Department assistant executive engineer Prithviraj Lenka and NH Division Berhampur and Water Resources Department assistant engineer Sushil Kumar Seth of Hatadihi block in Keonjhar district.
The five government officials whose pension was stopped include three Odisha Administrative Service (OAS) officers: Bargarh municipality former executive officer Naveen Seth, Khandapara block former BDO Sanatan Sethi, and Koraput former RTO Purandar Pujari. The other two are assistant engineer Niranjan Jena and junior engineer Pitambar Pratihari.
This has brought the tally of dismissed corrupt officials in Odisha over the past two months to 44.
Never before in the history of the state – and perhaps the nation – have such figures been seen and the corrupt being named and shamed.
And never before has any government in Odisha been so focused on social service and connecting with the public either.
Last month, Naveen had advised the Chief Secretary, the Development Commissioner, the Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC) and CMO officers to visit childcare institutions and celebrate Diwali with the children there.
While Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy visited Chetna, an institution of special education, and interacted with the inmates on the festival of lights, all Collectors celebrated the day by visiting childcare institutions in their respective districts.
Always leading by example, Naveen himself celebrated the special occasion with orphans at a non-government organisation (NGO).
Two days ahead of Diwali, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president launched the 'Odisha-Mo Parivar' (Odisha-My Family) programme to carry out his party's social service programmes.
The programme is aimed at protecting the environment, encouraging blood donation and helping Odias stranded in other states and foreign countries.
On October 30, the Odisha government announced financial assistance to all childcare institutions for the purposes of necessary support and humanitarian intervention. Under this programme, all district Red Cross Societies shall receive an amount of Rs 10 lakh each.
The districts of Mayurbhanj, Ganjam, Balasore, Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Sambalpur may get an extra Rs 10 lakh, based on their requirements, from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund (CMRF) and other sources.
This step was taken for the sake of the welfare and comfort of children living in various childcare institutions across the state, the CMO statement read.
Not only this, the Chief Minister had earlier directed ministers and senior officers visiting such districts to have lunch at these institutions and enquire about the well-being of the children.
In the meanwhile, the Odisha government also appointed as many as 10 senior IAS officers to ensure improvement of overall performance, infrastructure, development and functioning of medical colleges and hospitals as well as to oversee the progress made on proposed medical colleges.
On the economy and employment fronts, too, this month saw some important developments as Naveen pushed forward the skilled-in-Odisha initiative.
On November 4, the Odisha government signed a Memorandum of Understanding and two agreements with TATA Strive and Tech Mahindra for skill development and to create employment opportunities for the youth in the state.
While the Directorate of Technical Education and Training (DTE&T) and TATA Strive signed an agreement to impart life skills to students in all 49 government ITIs., the Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) signed another with Tech Mahindra to set up a state-of-the-art facility to start its operations for international BPO for global customers.
An official close to these developments revealed that these steps would generate more jobs in the BPO sector.
With an MoU signed between Tech Mahindra, Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) and College of Engineering and Technology (CET) to set up a Centre of Excellence in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), engineering students in the state can soon get an opportunity to have practical business experience to keep up with the market demand, which can help enhance their employability.
Thanks to the agreement, 30 students will receive training in AI and ML for a period of 12 months every year.
“Our vision is to make Odisha nucleus of global skilled manpower requirement by enhancing our skill to such a level that all the top industrial houses across the globe rope in our workforce in large numbers,” said the Chief Minister, who was himself present on the occasion.
Another essential quality of great administration is ensuring the safety of public and delivering the goods even in the face of adversity. This is an area where the Naveen Patnaik has been time and again tested over the past 19 years, the latest being during the second week of this month, and it once again came out with flying colours.
As the threat of cyclone Bulbul hovered over the state on November 8, threatening to lash its coastal belt, Naveen once again ensured that the state was ready even though he was in New Delhi on an official visit.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire service personnel were deployed in nine districts as a precautionary measure. Holidays of government officials were cancelled in the coastal districts and schools and Anganwadi centres were closed too.
However, the wrath of Mother Nature can only ever be minimised so much.
Despite all the preparations, when Cyclone Bulbul hit the coastal areas of the state two days later with heavy rain and strong winds, it damaged nearly 3 lakh hectare of crop area, including horticulture crops, and over 5,500 houses.
Of the six coastal districts affected, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj bore the brunt of Bulbul, while Jajpur was the one that was relatively spared, according to Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Pradeep Jena. “As per preliminary estimation, nearly 3 lakh hectare of crop area … have been affected out of which about 2 Lakh hectare have suffered crop loss to the extent of 33 per cent and above," he stated, adding that a detailed assessment will be completed within a week.
Although 11 large animals, five small animals and 50 poultry birds were lost to the cyclone, there was no loss of human life. That was in large part due to the evacuation of as many as 8,218 persons in those five districts who were placed in 91 safe shelters.
Out of three deaths initially reported, two were confirmed to have happened due to other reasons while one was under investigation.
Power infrastructures were damaged in several places with nearly 16 lakh electricity consumers affected in the coastal districts, but electricity supply was restored to 15 lakh well within 24 hours and remaining were completed within 48 hours, according to SRC.
With NDRF, ODRAF and Fire Service teams immediately deployed to cut down fallen trees, among other things, road clearance was complete in all the affected districts within a few hours of the natural disaster.
Within a day after the cyclone passed, the Chief Minister made an aerial survey of Bulbul-affected districts and announced an assistance package for the affected farmers. After holding a prompt review meeting in Bhubaneswar, he also asked the district collectors to submit damage assessment report by November 18 on the basis of which assistance would be given by November 24.
The state government also announced that assistance would be provided for loss of domestic animals and for loss or damage to the boats and nets of affected fishermen.
A day before of the cyclone, Naveen also faced another potentially stormy issue: the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute case.
He did two things to deal with it. Firstly, ahead of the Supreme Court verdict, he urged the people of Odisha to maintain peace and harmony no matter which way the judgment went. Secondly, he ensured that the state’s security forces were ready and had taken adequate steps to swiftly bring under control any untoward incident that might happen. The five-time Chief Minister showed this month once again how religiously he subscribes – wherever and whenever possible – to the prevention-is-better-than-cure policy.
Naveen is not only ensuring strict adherence to the 5T programme of achieving progress through transparency, teamwork, technology, time and transformation, but he always seems to be looking for – and finding – ingenious ways to achieve all-round development for Odisha. In short, he is redefining world-class administration and best-practice governance.